Copyright News

On this day in 1790, the U.S. Congress enacted the federal copyright law, which at the time protected works for 14 years with the chance for one renewal. The current copyright term is now the life of the author plus 70 years.

In other news, the Associated Press announced today a new partnership with Web firm Attributor. The AP hopes the company’s services will let the 161-year-old news organization better track how their stories and photos are disseminated online and detect copyright infringements.

Also, earlier this month the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed suit against Uri Geller, the famed paranormalist on behalf of Brian Sapient, a member of a skeptics group. Sapient uploaded a video to YouTube that questions Geller’s psychic spoon-bending ability that excerpted a portion of a NOVA documentary that featured footage owned by Geller. The EFF argues that this is a clear example of fair-use; Geller alleges copyright infringement.

And finally, an Op-Ed piece by Mark Helprin in the New York Times has raised some hackles among copyright thinkers. On May 20, Helprin wrote an editorial decrying limited copyrights, preferring instead to think of intellectual property as equal to any other economic venture:

No one except perhaps Hamilton or Franklin might have imagined that services and intellectual property would become primary fields of endeavor and the chief engines of the economy. Now they are, and it is no more rational to deny them equal status than it would have been to confiscate farms, ropewalks and other forms of property in the 18th century.

His advice for Congress is to extend copyrights “as far as it can throw.” Ben Vershbow at the Institute for the Future of the Book called the editorial “idiotic,” and scholar Larry Lessig set up a wiki which aims at writing a response to Helprin.

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